South Carolina passes solar bill and sues the EPA at the same time

All the good of the solar bill is overshadowed by out-of-control carbon emissions

Published August 7, 2014 9:26PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Rick Wilking)
(Reuters/Rick Wilking)

South Carolina is taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes to clean energy. On Wednesday, Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill which would encourage solar energy development in the state, which currently only produces about eight megawatts of solar power -- much less than neighbor states North Carolina and Georgia. Just days earlier, the state had joined 11 other states in suing the EPA over proposed regulations of carbon emissions from coal plants.

ClimateProgress reports:

At the same time that she’s trying to make progress on solar, Gov. Haley is labeling the EPA’s efforts to limit carbon emissions — which will help accelerate the shift to renewables — as economy-hurting mandates that get in the way of many of the state’s businesses which are “already green friendly anyways,” according to her...

Currently South Carolina gets 57 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and 25 percent from coal with the rest coming from natural gas or renewable sources. The EPA’s proposed cuts for the state’s carbon emissions are 51 percent by 2030, the bulk of which will come from the addition of two nuclear plants. According to the the Conservation Voters and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, the state has already cut emissions by about 30 percent since 2005. While South Carolina still relies on coal power for a quarter of its power, about half a dozen or so of the older plants are already closed or in the process of closing.

The solar energy bill will establish a lease program and various incentives for various kinds of renewable energy. "When you look at North Carolina and you look at Georgia, they've been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy, and they don't have anymore sun than we do," Haley said.

Despite Haley's good judgement when it comes to renewables, the state has fought furiously to make sure that it is unhindered by EPA's Clean Air Act which would limit the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution that the state's coal plants would be allowed to emit. South Carolina is particularly culpable in the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, a provision of the aforementioned act which protects states from air pollution produced outside their borders. The new regulations could save billions of dollars and as many as 960 lives in the South Carolina every year .

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Alternative Energy Coal Epa Solar Power South Carolina